Editor’s note: Open Call is a weekly column in which we ask arts and cultural leaders to share their perspectives on emerging from the COVID-19 crisis and welcoming back audiences.
This year was intended to be a year of major metamorphosis for the Delaware Museum of Natural History, long before COVID temporarily closed our doors.
For several years, planning for a total renovation and reimagining of our exhibits, galleries and public spaces has been underway, funded by a $9.8 million capital campaign. Our building closed in December 2020, and we will reopen in spring 2022 as the Delaware Museum of Nature & Science.
Meanwhile, our mission — to investigate nature and science, preserve and interpret our collections, conduct scientific research, and inspire people of all ages to a lifetime of exploration and discovery — continues, virtually and out in the community.
While our staff already was preparing for closure, the pandemic accelerated the need to develop virtual and offsite programs. In addition to creating fun online events such as live animal presentations and storytime, we developed virtual education programs for schools that reached thousands of students in the area.
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Among these programs are new STEM programs for middle school students supporting school curriculum and Next Generation Science Standards. Sponsored by DuPont, these programs reached 818 middle school students from underserved schools and included interaction with DuPont scientists who offered real-life perspective about STEM careers.
For undergraduate students, the Museum’s scientific curators partnered with Widener University and George Washington University to develop BCEEnet (Biological Collections in Ecology and Evolution Network), a project to support the accelerated development of online course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) using digitized natural history collections. An estimated 1,800 students at 30-plus colleges and universities participated in four CUREs during the 2020-21 school year, designed to help mitigate the loss of critical education opportunities due to the pandemic, such as research and laboratory courses.
Now, with the area reopening, we are out in the community with outreach programs and events with several partner organizations.
Throughout 2021, we are collaborating with Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library to offer a variety of programs and events, including our popular nature and science summer camps. Join us at Winterthur for the Perseid Meteor Shower Viewing Party on Thursday, Aug. 12, Hands on Science Wednesdays through the end of August, and live bird shows with Phung Luu of Animal Behavior & Conservation Connections on Sept. 26 and Nov. 13. Visit our website at delmnh.org to learn more.
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In spring 2022 – 50 years after the Delaware Museum of Natural History first opened to the public – we will reopen as the Delaware Museum of Nature & Science with new exhibits and interactive experiences. Our new galleries will be organized by ecosystems, taking our guests through Delaware, around the world, and back in time.
The Delaware Regional Journey includes temperate forests, salt marshes, Bayshore dunes, bald cypress swamps and the Delaware Bay.
Discover what it is like to think like a scientist at the Field Station, and explore inspiring stories of scientific research in our area in the Research Headquarters.
In the Global Journey, explore how diverse life evolves and adapts to a dynamic Earth through the Arctic tundra, African savanna, tropical rainforests, and the world’s oceans.
Nearby in the adjacent PaleoZone, step back through time to explore our area during the Cretaceous, with all-new dinosaur models and a variety of fossils to explore.
A few favorites are returning, though, including the popular coral reef walkover and the giant squid greeting you at the entrance.
We are excited to welcome you back next spring. In the meantime, we hope to see you at a community event, or virtually through social media and our website.
Halsey Spruance is executive director of the Delaware Museum of Natural History.